luigireggi.eu

27/12/10 Open Policy

Regional Policy financing e-government in Southern Italy

The last issue of Italian magazine “eGov” includes an article on e-government projects co-funded by European Cohesion Policy which I wrote after the release of a number of official reports on the implementation of Regional Operative Programmes in Italy.
In this article – available in Italian only, sorry – I try to provide a clearer view of financial resources dedicated to e-government development and diffusion in Southern Italy in 2000-06 and 2007-13 programming periods, as well as of main co-funded projects. These are some of the conclusions I came to:

  • financial resources dedicated to e-government and information society in Southern Italy are huge compared to its actual absorptive capacity;
  • from a “governance” point of view, after a political phase dominated by a well-publicized “shared vision”, low investment from the national government increased the role of regional policies in the whole implementation of e-government in Italy. This caused, especially in the South, a stronger role of Regional Cohesion Policy in defining strategies and policy priorities.
  • Since national government – for many reasons – can no longer play the role of coordination center of local actions, interregional coordination and collaboration is becoming essential. The DPS project I wrote about in the past is one possible and still experimental solution.
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15/12/10 Open Policy , Research

European regions financing public e-services: the case of structural funds

As reported in one of the papers underlying Barca Report on the future of European Cohesion Policy, “In the 2007-2013 planning period the share of Structural Funds of the European Union allocated to Research and Innovation received the largest increase, in absolute and relative terms. It is no exaggeration to claim that, for many countries, the entire Lisbon Agenda rests on Structural Funds”.
This is particularly true for the lagging regions of the “Convergence” objective, where structural funds are by far the main source of funding for innovation in general and for e-services in particular. A specific “category of expenditure” is in fact dedicated to public e-services such as e-health, e-government, e-learning, e-inclusion, etc. which are named “services and application for the citizen” (Regulation no. 1828/2006).

Using European Commission data on programmed resources for the 2007-13 period, it is possible to explore the amount of total resources dedicated to this topic by each single Operational Programme (OP). 
The map above shows the amount of resources programmed by all types of OPs (regional, but also national and interregional), with regional disaggregation (NUTS2). Regions from Slovack Republic have planned high investments in e-services (more than 189 million euros); Campania (147,5 million euros), Andalucia (Spain) and Attiki (Greece) also belong to the cluster of Regions showing the highest absolute values.

Moreover, considering the percentage of the resources not only for e-services but also for the other categories of expenditure dedicated to Information Society, it is possible to analyze the strategy each region implemented when allocating public funds to public e-services, broadband, ICT diffusion among enterprises or infrastructural services.
In the “Convergence” Regions, a specific “public e-services strategy” emerges. That means that Regions investing in public e-services tend to exclude the other matters; they concentrate available resources to e-government or e-health, and very low percentage of total funding is dedicated to the other categories such as broadband or infrastructural services. For example, while funds dedicated to ICT diffusion among enterprises are always accompanied by measures for broadband penetration, resources for e-services “stand alone”, and show low correlation with the other components of Information Society funding. 
This fact, if confirmed, seems not really positive, since the development of e-services should come along with the diffusion of the necessary pre-conditions.
Another interesting question is: what determine this strategic choice? is it possible to isolate context-specific factors or the choice is based only on political criteria?

Preliminary results of this study are included in the presentation embedded below, which Sergio Scicchitano and I have prepared for the first public meeting of Technology Adoption and Innovation in Public Services (TAIPS) research project at University of Urbino, Italy. The project is funded by Eiburs – European Investment Bank University Research Sponsorship Programme. In the presentation you can find graphs and other figures showing the allocation of resources at national and regional level, and the details of the principal component analysis.

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04/11/10 Civic Technology

Open data italy: the bottom-up approach

Open data italy: the bottom-up approach

Two websites by two different groups of Italian civic hackers are creating bottom-up national open government portals. But, for now, the best results are still at regional level.

Italy does not have a national open data portal yet. Some people believe that no one even plans to create it, though Mr. Renato Brunetta, Italian Minister for Innovation and Public Administration, in an interview with Wired Italy in June, promised that a “Data.gov.it” will be launched by the end of 2010 following the example of data.gov and data.gov.uk.

Evidently, Italian “civic hackers” did not believe him or simply could not wait. So yesterday they launched their own open data public portal with a tiny budget and lots of enthusiasm. Well, to be precise, not one but two different open government portals appeared on the web on exactly the same day.

The first, datagov.it, is promoted by the brand new Italian Association for Open Government, a small group mainly composed of independent consultants working for national agencies or institutions such as Formez (a public agency for training courses dedicated to central public administrations) or ForumPA (a leading company in organizing major events and exhibits for public administrations), or connected to the network InnovatoriPA (Italian Innovators in the Public Administration).
Their main objective is to publish a manifesto for open government in Italy, the draft of which is now available for public consultation and will be finally released on November 30, 2010. The manifesto seems not to be linked to any particular action or event, as it was the Open Declaration on European Public Services, which was conceived to influence the Ministerial Declaration on e-government. This website also has a page containing a list of publicly available datasets – very small for now (only 8 listed), but growing.
The second website is ironically entitled “Spaghetti Open Data”. Rather than a declaration or a manifesto, the portal focuses on the available datasets by listing and classify them in a rigorous way. The group of volunteers behind this effort is composed of key civil servants and information holders in Italian Regional and National Government which were supported by a team of very efficient developers.

This is how Alberto Cottica, one of the promoters, commented on yesterday’s launch on his blog:
“We aggregated 32 databases; not bad when you consider that data.gov, with all the firepower of the Obama administration, had 47 at launch.
It’s only a small thing, but it feels right for various reasons.
Firstly, it is a concrete achievement. I have had enough of complaining about the idle government, the backwardness of Italian culture, the financial crisis, bad luck. I have precious little time to spare, and I would like to invest it on projects that pay me back by yielding some kind of result. The Spaghetti Open Data group has put in some work, and in a few weeks it produced something which is actually there, and it works. If you want to build something with Italian open data you can, right now, without having to wait for structural change or a new generation in government. All it took is some voluntary work and 41 euro for hosting.

Secondly, it is intellectually rigorous. We had to ask ourselves the same questions that I imagine confronted the people in charge of data.gov and data.gov.uk. Are statistic data open data? (Apparently not) Does it make sense for statistical and open data to be collected in the same place? (Apparently it does, so that citizens can correlate the ones with the others) How to organize metadata? (We went for compatibility with CKAN, as in data.gov.uk) we have mapped a possible way for Italian open data, and future legitimate websites of open data have an all-Italian benchmark that they can consider, or even copy.

Finally, it is the expression of a small community of about fifty bloggers and civil servants that worked together towards a common goal, across their considerable cultural differences, showing mutual respect along the way. I have also had enough of bashing bureaucrats as stupid or evil. Some are just that, others are wonderful people and great war buddies. Most are reasonably clever, well-meaning people who happen to be very different from me: collaborating requires investing a little time and effort to come to understand each other. It is almost always worth it”.

That said, while the national open data portal is somehow being created, as always happens the best things are happening at regional level. Same thing with open data: good efforts to open up public data and to create open data portals are from the Regional Authorities. Above all:

• Piemonte Region is leading the way with its open data portal dati.piemonte.it, being active from May 2010.
• Toscana Region has set up a webpage full of datasets, and has provided itself with a regional law on the re-use of public information.

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14/09/10 Civic Technology

A chat with HAL VARIAN on Open Data and Gov 2.0

A chat with HAL VARIAN on Open Data and Gov 2.0

Professor Hal Varian is one of my personal idols. As a student, I studied microeconomics from his famous manual which is used in almost every University in the world. Recently, I usedMicroeconomic Analysis again in my own Economics course at La Sapienza University in Rome, and I rediscovered the clarity and rigor of this text.
But my life literally changed after reading Information Rules, a groundbreaking book he wrote with Carl Shapiro in 1999. This book led me to study innovation and technology and to make the study of innovation a profession.

Many of you might know he is now Chief Economist at Google, and his job is analyzing economic trends by exploiting the potential of Google Trends and the tons of queries people make every day. A very exiting job indeed. He is certainly the master of web 2.0 data.

Professor Varian is now touring Europe for a series of meetings that will culminate with the WTO Forum in Geneva tomorrow. Last Thursday he was over in Rome to meet the Italian Minister of Labour Maurizio Sacconi at a public meeting organized by the lobbying and media company Reti entitled “Web Economy: Internet for economic development”.
How could I have passed up the opportunity of being there and asking him a couple of questions about open data and gov 2.0?

Professor Varian, what do you think about this kind of global fever for open data and Gov 2.0? Is it all hype or does have a future?

I think that this model is very attractive. You can think of the government as the wholesaler of data, that puts it up in bulk form. Then this data can be downloaded, refined and improved for retail and distribution. There are a lot of reasons to think that that model might be attractive, because the role that the Government would play would be quite specifically defined: make the raw data available. Then people can extract from that what they want, and polish it, beautify it, crack it and a lot of other things. So that is a model which I think could be attractive to Italy, the US and the other Countries. The problem of managing the data from end to end is that it’s very expensive and a very big challenge. The most important step is to make the data available even if it’s in a raw and unfinished form.

Two days ago, at Gov 2.0 Summit 2010 in Washington DC Ellen Miller of Sunlight Foundation strongly criticized the availability and quality of the data published on USAspending.gov and Data.gov. It seems that this revolution is actually not happening yet.

Well, I think that in the Obama administration, for example, they are making a lot of more patent data available, FCC (Federal Communications Commission) data available, and so on. So it is happening, it’s just not as rapid as one might think, because it’s a difficult problem. But I think there’s enough momentum behind this effort, and we will see progress. As they say “pazienza”! (he laughs).

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09/09/10 Open Policy

Open data On Structural Funds at the european parliament – the long way towards transparency

A study presented at the European Parliament in July 2010 explores the open data on European Structural Funds made available in March 2009. The European Transparency Initiative is pushing the transparency agenda in most EU Countries.

As I wrote in one of my previous posts, European Cohesion Policy is well on its way towards greater transparency in managing Structural Funds. Member states and EU Regions are responsible for publishing data on the beneficiaries of the policy and the corresponding amount of public funding received.

Although the set of minimum information that the European Commission and Member States agreed on in the COCOF of 23rd April 2008 is still relatively small (it only includes the name of the beneficiary, the project and the amount of public funding), the European Transparency Initiative of the European Commission certainly represents a breakthrough innovation in the way most European Countries implement public policy. In the last few years the policy framework and strict regulation of Structural Funds have played a crucial role in pushing the transparency agenda in those areas of Europe where administrative culture and capacity is traditionally low.
A study on current availability of open data on Structural Funds was presented at the European Parliament during the public hearing Transparency in Structural Funds – recipients and beneficiaries held by the President of the Budget Control Committee, Luigi de Magistris (one of the aims of the hearing was to learn from the US website Recovery.gov, which was presented by Earl E. Devaney, Chairman of the US government’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board).
The report, entitled “The Data Transparency Initiative and its Impact on Cohesion Policy” (full report), evaluates the implementation of the European Transparency Initiative by providing some data and four case studies: Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. The study was carried out by the Centre for Industrial Studies (CSIL) in Milan, Italy and financed by the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development.
As stated in the blog Space for Transparency, the situation reported in the study “results in incomparable, often not machine readable and in some countries almost unusable data in different EU languages and different currencies”.

The results of the study are indeed not so encouraging. Only 78% of the European Regions managing an ERDF Operational Programme provide the minimum information required. 19% provide a description of the operations, 41% a location of the projects, 27% the amount of national co-funding. Moreover, while 44% of EU Regions publish data on the total amount of funding, only 32% of available datasets specify the amount of public money actually paid out. 
PDF is confirmed as the prevailing format in which data are released (52%), followed by XLS (27%) and HTML (21%); a situation that did not change one year later (March 2010). See the table I included in my post Open data and structural funds.
As expected, these different approaches seem to reflect differences both in administrative capacities and cultural administrative traditions. In addition, the report argues that centralization vs. decentralization issues play also a role. Obviously, a centrally managed Programme has the advantage that information flows are easier to manage and local actions are more easily coordinated.
The report draws some final recommendations:
• to provide additional essential information, such as contact details, localization, project summaries, description of project partners, etc.
• to make databases fully searchable and compatible, so as to make possible an EU-wide outlook of the data
• to describe the data in English and not only in the local language

Some personal remarks:
1) The study is the first attempt to evaluate the availability and quality of open data on Structural Funds provided by a diverse and complex set of National and Regional Authorities. The statistics provided are a useful starting point for any further research in the field. Moreover, the report provides a valuable contextualization and interpretation of results, along with a detailed description of the European Transparency Initiative.
2) The analysis dates back to March 2009 and should be updated. Since then the number of EU Regions providing at least a minimum set of information has grown and have now reached 100%, as reported in the map of InfoRegio website; though I guess the indicators on quality have not significantly improved.
3) The survey, which seems to be conducted starting from the links that were available on the InfoRegio map at the time, does not consider other important types of Operational Programmes such as the National Programmes and Interregional Programmes or the cross-border co-operation Programmes.
4) Data on quality of the open datasets are presented only in an aggregate way, so it is impossible to compare different nations or regions.

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07/08/10 Innovation Policy

Co-designing regional innovation policies – a new project for multi-level, bottom-up coordination

An ambitious project has been launched by the Italian Department for Development and Cohesion Policies, involving Italian national and regional policy makers.  The aim: co-designing Innovation policies under EU Structural Funds for a multi-level coordination, in Gov 2.0 style.

The context: EU Regional Policy and Innovation

In many EU Countries, especially in the lagging areas of the East and the South of Europe, European Cohesion Policy is the main source of funding for Research and Innovation policies, and new Europe 2020 flagship initiative “Innovation Union” aims at strengthening and further developing the role of EU Structural Funds 2007-13 to support innovation. While the European Social Fund (ESF) is dedicated to the development of human capital, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as stated in the European Regulation No 1080/2006, contributes towards the financing of productive investment and infrastructures as well as the development of endogenous potential through measures which support regional and local development.
Each EU region inserts its policy objectives in its regional Operational Programmes or in a shared National or Interregional Programme. For each regional objective, the selection criteria of projects are set out by a dedicated Managing Authority.
In the case of Italy, with their ERFD regional Operational Programmes (OPs)
– all regions have programmed funding for research projects carried out by enterprises (in collaboration with research centres or other enterprises) and for innovation in enterprises; 13 OPs include actions for the creation of new businesses in the emerging sectors
– 19 regions intend to empower research infrastructures, equipment and instrumentation to support R&I supply, and to create clusters and structures for technological transfer (innovation poles, technological districts, competence centres)

The total amount of resources dedicated to Research, Innovation and Information Society by all Italian Operative Programmes 2007-2013 exceeds 20.7 billion Euros. 70% of these resources are concentrated in only 5 Regions of the South: Campania, Puglia, Sicilia, Calabria and Basilicata. This is the highest amount of money ever managed by those regional authorities for this particularly difficult kind of policy.

A specific action for inter-regional coordination in Italy

In 2008, the Department for Development and Cohesion Policies (DPS) of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development – responsible for Structural Funds in Italy – launched a technical assistance project dedicated to the Italian Regions of the Convergence objective (the five regions mentioned above) and aimed at sharing good practices of policy implementation in the field of Research and Innovation. In particular, academic support was offered to tackle critical issues, such as empowering strategic design capability and project selections, in itinere and ex post evaluation, the efficient use of conditionality and result-driven funding. Eight working groups were created, involving more than 100 representatives of regional administrations plus the central ministries and agencies responsible for national innovation policies. 
I dedicated a post to some of the high-level conclusions the final report of the first phase of the project (2008-09), in which you can also find not only regional data on structural funds in Italy, but also methodological advice and examples of good practices.
A new phase of the project has just been launched: “Sostegno alle politiche di ricerca e innovazione delle Regioni” (“Support to regional Research and Innovation policies”). The new wave is promising more in-depth analysis of current trends of regional policy for Research and Innovation. Moreover, central and local policy-makers are actively involved in order to co-design policies, to share implementation practices and to draft policy documents and templates ready to be used in day-to-day activities. It’s up to a few thematic working groups to produce drafts of grants, strategies, evaluation studies, implementation processes, etc. in true ‘Gov 2.0’ style, e.g. through the use of tools for on line collaboration.
To date, four working groups, coordinated by high level experts and practitioners, have been focusing on at least six policy issues:
1. Technological foresight and regional policy
2. Selection and criteria for research projects
3. Conditionality and funding of projects
4. Pre-commercial Public procurement
5. In itinere evaluation indicators
6. Ex post evaluation indicators
You can download the powerpoint presentations of the project on the website of the National Agency for Innovation (Agenzia per la diffusione delle tecnologie per l’Innovazione), in Italian.

Innovation policy needs multi-level coordination

But the scope of these activities could not be limited to national boundaries. The ‘secret agenda’ of Andrea Bonaccorsi, professor of Economics at the University of Pisa and coordinator of the project, is to connect Italian regional authorities to the European regional network, and import innovative ideas from the most advanced EU regions.
The rationale is clear. From a regional point of view, it is useless and dangerous to let national or EU plans identify long-term regional policy goals and research priorities by simply ‘copying’ the most fashionable EU or national ideas into local strategies and plans. For example, it is evident that focusing on biotechnology, ICT or nanotechnology may not be the best strategy for all European regions; but this seems to be the case if you take a look at regional policy documents. Instead, Prof Bonaccorsi suggests to apply the ‘smart specialization’ approach to regional priority setting. The effort should be concentrated on specific sectors and niches of application by combining General Purpose Technologies such as ICT with locally generated competencies. 
In other words, regions must find their true vocation, and the experience of other advanced European territories might prove fundamental. The increasing interest toward territory-based innovation policies is demonstrated by the growing regional percentage of public expenditure for Research and Innovation in most OECD countries, especially in those countries where regional governments have greater autonomy (see figure above).
The concept of smart specialization was first introduced by Dominique Foray, Paul A. David and Bronwyn Hall – experts of the Knowledge for Growth group (K4G) working for the President of the European Commission – and then embedded in Europe 2020 strategy. Regional specialization implies a multi-level governance to coordinate different, place-based policies at national and regional level. An on-going research project by the OECD and the European Commission identifies some of the main barriers to a seamless policy-making process at national level:
– low political and technical capabilities of local institutions,
– duplication of competencies and plans and
– the presence of policy gaps (policy areas not covered).

Towards a bottom-up approach to policy coordination

Now, how to realize multi-level coordination?
While multi-level governance can be improved trough political agreements or the creation of dedicated agencies, the value of this kind of projects is to provide good examples of a bottom-up approach. People involved in policy implementation from different regions – along with national technical bodies – are given the chance to meet their peers and share knowledge, as happens in a true community of practice. I can’t wait to see the results.

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10/06/10 Civic Technology , Digital Government

From Gov 1.0 to Gov 2.0: A change in users, too

A study based on Eurostat data on ICT usage among individuals in Italy demonstrates that current Web 2.0 users are not interested in eGovernment, while eGovernment users are reluctant to be involved in Gov 2.0 initiatives. A change of paradigm is needed to evolve from Gov 2.0 for policy wonks to large scale participation.

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p class=”paragraph_style_5″>The figure below summarizes one of the main findings of the Report on Digital Divide among households in Italy commissioned by the Italian Parliament and co-funded by all the major telecom companies operating in the country (see this Abstract of Chapter 2 in English, or the full report in Italian). Using data from Eurostat (year 2008), the study classifies the users according to a number of Internet activities that they had performed in the last 3 months. 
Users tend to cluster into three main groups:

• the first group (in light green) tends to carry out quite traditional web activities, such as on-line banking, information search or eGovernment
• the second (in darker green) tries out new technologies mainly devoted to communication and the web 2.0, i.e. blogging, social networks, on-line gaming, listening to streaming music, etc.
• the third (in red) is composed of occasional users who did not do any of the activities considered in the last 3 months

Looking at the personal characteristics of the people belonging to the various groups, the data shows that age still plays a very important role, following a pattern that could be thought of as a ‘digital circle of life’ (purple line). Internet users, while starting this virtual cycle among the occasional users when very young, tend to move to the innovation adopters group at 16 to 25 years old, and then join the traditional group once they reach middle age. The circle is eventually closed by virtue of the fact that senior people belong to the occasional users group. As expected, the level of education (blue line) is also positively correlated to the use of the Internet, but the arrows are pointing right to center of the web 1.0 cluster.

Today, who is Gov 2.0 for?
Once again data shows that, on average, digital natives seem to maintain the monopoly of web 2.0, while traditional and bureaucratic on line services are generally used by completely different people, namely well-educated persons in their 30s or 40s.
The difference from 1.0 and 2.0 users is even more dramatic considering e-government services. People who download public forms or use advanced on line services (“sending filled in forms”, in Eurostat vocabulary) are represented in the chart at the exact opposite of blogs creators. They are different users, having different habits and showing completely different ways to use the Internet. Gov 1.0 users do on-line banking, read newspapers on line, etc. Maybe they have responsibilities, have to pay taxes, find a new job and so on, but are probably not used to Twitter, Ning or Second Life. On the contrary, Web 2.0 people are younger and just want to communicate and play.
A tremendous change in service design is necessary to meet the needs of web 2.0 people without leaving traditional users behind; a change of paradigm in fact. New services have to be co-designed with 2.0 kind of users, and a hacker mentality has to be promoted to loose the boundaries between institutional bodies and society.
But today who is Gov 2.0 really for? David Osimo thinks that the existing initiatives are just for elitists – designed, he says quoting the New York Times, for Lisa Simpson, not for Bart – and that new tools are needed in order to involve him, i.e. to enable large-scale participation. Using the Simpsons to interpret the Eurostat data, Bart would be – well… he actually is! – a teenager probably just not interested in political participation and eGovernment services, or at least not yet. He would know how to use 2.0 tools to interact with Government, but he prefers to “play networked games with others” or to download illegal content on peer-to-peer networks. And Lisa, where is she in the chart? Data shows what is happening on average, and Lisa is therefore not considered. In fact, she is absolutely an exception: she is politically involved, she cares about policies (a policy wonk, someone said), while having the media literacy to be 2.0.
Time is probably going to help this. It is reasonable to expect that, as the digital natives get older and new commodities and tools such as the iPad spread, more Barts are going be turned into Lisas, and the hacker/wonk mentality will eventually become more widespread. In the meantime, as Alberto points out, it is better to be ruled by a few Lisas than by Mr. Burns.

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15/04/10 Digital Government

e-Government Policies in Search of Coordination

e-Government Policies in Search of Coordination
Coordination between national and local policies is one of the key requirements of back office interoperability, joined-up services, Gov 2.0 initiatives. The post analyzes the delicate interaction between national and regional e-government policies in Italy from the 1990s to the present day.

Effective coordination and collaboration, both across different sectors (health care, transportation, education, etc.) and tiers of government (national or federal, regional, local), is widely recognized as one of the key requirements of advanced e-government implementation. At a back office level, coordination enables, for example, inter-agency data interoperability and sharing – including better-informed decision-making – and smarter public procurement through the aggregation of public ICT demand. At a front office level, information sharing allows the realization of so-called joined-up or seamless services, often delivered by local authorities, but linked to processes or data from higher levels of government. New flows of interoperable public data can also fuel government 2.0 initiatives, extending the sharing of information not only to other government organizations, but also to the public as active participants and services co-designer.

It is quite evident that policy design has a major role in supporting this process. E-government and ICT strategies should consider the coordination between central and local initiatives as the key factor preventing duplication of efforts and waste of public money, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. A common policy framework is needed to ensure the compliance of local initiatives with national strategic objectives, to strengthen the structures dedicated to policy governance, to develop common standards, to exchange good practices and to support the weakest local administrations in managing technical and organizational change. Indeed, ensuring that no local agency is left behind is a worthwhile public goal both from an efficiency and equity point of view.
Clearly, coordination is particularly needed in presence of a highly fragmented government structure, which means complex governance. In this regard, Italy represents a good case. Italian agencies directly involved in the delivery of e-government services are more than 10 thousand: they include the ministries and other central public organizations and their local divisions, 21 regional governments, 109 provinces, more than 8,000 municipalities, plus hundreds of other local institutions such as local health care authorities, park authorities, etc.

In such a scenario, the regional level has usually been considered as the ideal scale for policy intervention on these topics (actually, the debate is always open and the matter quite complex). Furthermore, after the reform of the Italian Constitution in 2001, regional governments have experienced greater autonomy on various matters (e.g. health care), which were devolved from central government to regional administrations, and are now playing a central role in defining innovation policy priorities. Today the great majority of the ICT investments in Italy are funded by regional budgets. Nevertheless, the role of the national government remains pivotal because it can promote political commitment, common strategies, technical standards and a shared policy framework.

The following sections briefly examine the delicate interaction between national and regional e-government policies in Italy from the 1990s to the present day.

First phase, 1993-2000: ‘pioneering’

At the national level, from 1993 to 2000 the actors charged with decision-making on ICT and the public sector were the Authority for IT in the Public Administration (AIPA) and the Minister of Public Administration. The AIPA – transformed in CNIPA (National Centre for IT in the Public Administration) in 2003 and than in DigitPA in 2009 – is a technical body with autonomy and scrutiny independence that, together with the Ministry of Public Administration shared some early competences over strategies and technical support in the development of information systems within the central administration. In the late nineties the Ministry launched a series of reforms towards efficiency and transparency of the public administration, which started to consider the ICTs as a carrier of modernization.
At the local level, no formal regional plan were conceived until 1999. In the second half of the nineties the first ‘civic networks’ were created in medium-sized municipalities – traditionally the most innovative and efficient – by the pioneers of e-government, who often were just individual enthusiastic civil servants with a technological background.

Second phase, 2001-2005: ‘a shared vision’

With the change of government in charge, a Ministry of Innovation and Technology was created.  While the most advanced regions were drafting their e-government and information society plans, the Minister, together with the CNIPA, had the role of coordinating the implementation of the National e-government Action Plan (2001).  The first phase of the plan culminated in a major bid for developing local public on line services (worth €472 million of national funding), through which about a hundred pilot projects were co-funded by the central government with more than 5.000 local agencies involved. The CNIPA was responsible for project selection and in-itinere evaluation, experimenting a result-driven funding. Overall, the implementation of the action plan has been characterized by a reasonably good level of collaboration between national and local levels and the importance of the inter-agency cooperation was explicitly documented in the national policies for the first time. In 2003, a document entitled A shared vision, a cooperative implementation (L’e-government per un federalismo efficiente: una visione condivisa, una realizzazione cooperativa) was approved by the Conferenza Unificata, a cooperation body representing the State, the Regions and the other local governments.

Other organizational bodies dedicated to inter-institutional coordination (all created in 2002) included a Permanent Commission for e-government (Commissione permanente) composed by the Ministry and the Presidents of the Regions, two Permanent Committees (Comitati permanenti) with the representatives of the Municipalities and the Provinces, a Joint Table for e-government (Tavolo Congiunto Permanente) composed by the Minister of Innovation, the Regions, the Provinces, the Comunità Montane (associations of municipalities located in mountain areas) and the central administrations involved in the Action Plan.

In 2002 a network of technical bodies was created for each region: the Regional Competence Centers for e-government (CRC), working teams designed to support the developing of e-government projects in local administrations. Collaboration between the Ministry and the Regions was facilitated by the presence of one or more representatives of both institutions in each regional team, while a central staff in Rome was assisting regional bodies in pursuing common goals and ensuring the comparability of the data collection activities that every CRC carried out to support decision-making.

Third phase, 2006-2008: ‘regional leadership’

Once the first phase of the Action Plan was completed, a change of national government occurred.  The Minister of Public Administration inherited the powers of the Minister of Innovation and Technology, in order to better integrate the actions towards the diffusion offront office e-government services with those towards the back office re-engineering. In 2006 a new commission of the Conferenza unificata was set up: the Permanent Commission on technological innovation in the regions and local administrations.

In those years, the Minister of Regional Affairs also launched a second parallel national program for local e-government called ‘Elisa’, worth about €40 million of national co-funding, while the main action carried out by the CNIPA within the second phase of the Action Plan was the creation of the Alliances for Innovation (Alleanze per l’Innovazione), technical shared centers providing e-government services for small municipalities and co-financed by the central government.

A lower investment from the national level compared with the resources programmed in the previous years, together with a series of delays in implementing and coordinating the second phase of the national Action Plan, increased the role of regional policies in the whole implementation of e-government in Italy. This caused, especially in the Centre-North, afragmentation of local initiatives and, in the South, a much stronger weight of the Regional Cohesion Policy in defining strategies and policy priorities. Indeed, European Structural Funds and the National Under-utilized Area Funds (FAS) have been the main (often the only) source of funding for promoting the information society in the South of Italy, with more than €1.2 billion of total funding dedicated to e-government development in the 2000-2006 programming period. An additional €1 billion is programmed for the 2007-2013 period (Structural Funds only).

Fourth phase, from 2009 onwards: ‘one-to-one coordination’

In January 2009 the new Minister of Public Administration launched the national plan ‘e-gov 2012’.  The plan covers 27 strategic objectives and 80 different initiatives and has suffered from a shortage of financial resources due to the particular condition of Italian public finance after the crisis, though €1.4 billion has been planned to be utilized over five years.  E-gov 2012 is mainly focused on the digitalization of central government; however, some initiatives must be implemented in cooperation with the local government, e.g. the integration of the municipal registers with the real estate cadastral system and the regional topographic database.

Even if the previous bodies dedicated to central-local cooperation remain active, the cooperation between national and local governments has been realized mostly through the signing of several protocols of understanding between the Department of Innovations in the Public Administration, representing the Minister, and each single local government.  According to the e-gov 2012 official web site, to date 23 protocols have been signed with local administrations (4 regions, 5 provinces and 16 municipalities).

The regions’ need to converge upon a common framework gave rise to the proposal of a plan named e-gov 2010, approved by the Inter-regional Center for IT, Statistical and Geographical Systems (CISIS) in March 2009. The plan, originally conceived as an anti-crisis measure, put at the centre of regional policy inter-regional cooperation in order to prevent the duplication of the technological platforms, solutions and services developed at the local level.

In April 2009 a protocol of understanding between the Minister and the Conferenza delle Regioni e Province Autonome, another body representing the Italian Regions, is aimed at fostering a constant dialogue through the creation of permanent links between the two levels of government.  A similar document has been signed with ANCI, the National Association of Italian Municipalities, introducing more concrete actions such as the promotion of the certified e-mail and the national projects Linea Amica (a unified call-center of the whole Public Administration) and Reti Amiche (aimed at improving the delivery of public services by multiplying the access points, e.g. the involvement of banks and tobacconists).

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02/03/10 Civic Technology , Open Policy

Open data and Structural Funds

European Cohesion Policy has always paid special attention to transparency. Today all European Regions publish lists of beneficiaries of Structural Funds as required by the Council regulations.  But only a part of this data is in a machine-readable and reusable format.  Italian region of Calabria represents a good exception.

As the current debate on ‘government 2.0’ focuses on accessing public information as a way to foster open government and transparency, the availability of public data is becoming crucial for an effective delivery of new user-generated services. According to the last Ministerial Declaration on eGovernment, approved in November 2009, new demand-led information products and services enabled by the reuse of public sector information will support the transition of Europe to a knowledge-based economy.
In this regard, great importance is attributed to the formats in which this data is published. It is universally recognized that a web page (i.e. HTML code) or a PDF file is not enough. To allow mash-up or geo-referencing, data should be machine-readable, preferably in open, standard and reusable formats such as XML, RDF, CSV (see for example WC3 guidelines).

The European Cohesion Policy has always paid attention to the transparency issues related to the vast amount of public resources that have been assigned to the European Regions.
According to Article 69 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999, the Member States and the Managing Authority for the operational programme shall provide information on and publicise operations and co-financed programmes. The information shall be addressed to European Union citizens and beneficiaries with the aim of highlighting the role of the Community and ensuring that assistance from the Funds is transparent.

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To fulfill Article 69 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006, Managing Authorities of the programmes co-financed by Structural Funds have to draw up a Communication Plan aiming at:

  • improving communication through the implementation of community actions more visible and close to citizens in order to increase the general consent on the future EU policies
  • guaranteeing more transparency through more efficient, transparent and accessible European institutions open to public control
  • closing the gap between EU institutions and citizens through the improvement of the dialogue and listening.

Consequently all direct beneficiaries (the public or private bodies or firms responsible for commissioning operations or, in cases of aid schemes, the bodies that grant the aid) must be published by the Managing Authorities under the rules governing the implementation of the 2007-2013 funds (EC No 1828/2006). The information must contain the name of the beneficiary, the names of the operations and the amount of public funding allocated to the operations.
From this page of Inforegio web site (DG Regio of European Commission) it is possible to access to the lists of projects and beneficiaries published in the web sites of the Regional Operative Programmes and of the Regional Managing Authorities.
As reported in the table below, currently most of these lists are provided in HTML tables or can be downloaded as PDF files, making them difficult to export to Excel or other applications and connect them to different databases for a more detailed analysis.

 

The Calabria project database

A good example of how this data should be published is the project database of Italian Region of Calabria, accessible online through the web site Calabria Europa.

To date, the database includes more than 32,000 projects; for each project the following information is reported:

  1. the name of the project

  2. the name of the final beneficiary

  3. the owner of the process

  4. the territory where the beneficiary is located

  5. the type of funds (ERDF, ESF, etc) and the Operational Programme

  6. the amounts allocated

  7. the amounts paid out

Through an interactive interface and an advanced search, users can look for specific projects, territories where the project impacts, Operational Programmes, measures, or expenditure categories and then to export the results in CSV format.  It is also possible to visualize the data in terms of statistics, graphs and figures, and then export to a PDF.  This tool is also used to report on the state of play and implementation levels of the policies funded, not only by the Structural Funds, but also by national funds such as the FAS (Under-utilized Area Funds). The tool includes data about the programming periods 2000-2006 and 2007-2013.

The most interesting feature is the search for a single municipal territory, which gives the opportunity, once exported to a CSV file, of geo-referencing the data with the greatest possible detail.  As an example, the map below shows the total amounts allocated in the 2007-13 programming period, displaying the funds only for projects impacting on a single municipality.

CALABRIA_FFSS_cropsreenshot calabriaeuropa

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